Thursday, 11 June 2020

A Further Thought Towards a Class-Conscious Doctrine of Election


With regards to how the Calvinist/Arminian debate - where the doctrine of election is usually discussed without reference to questions of social class - may play out against the backdrop of capitalist modernity:

'The reductionist physical standardisation of the world into dead, homogeneous building blocks or units located in an absolute, space-time continuum that was only hinted at in Antiquity has become to some extent radicalized and generalised to a dogma in modernity. In this way the atomistic concept of substance extends itself beyond physical nature onto every area of determinate being, for instance in Leibniz's concept of 'windowless monads'... with this we are already no longer dealing with a mere idea of presuppositionless actors of knowledge about 'the' world, but rather with a definite sociohistorical constitution, namely that of the dawning capitalist one of the modern commodity producing system.' - Robert Kurz, The Substance of Capital, Chronos Publications, London, 2016, p.15.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

'With this in mind we are obviously able to put all our irony into the contemplation of man's efforts to build - but at the same time we participate in them... What keeps us from transforming our active pessimism into a sterile catastrophism is the humor I mentioned, a form of Christian liberty in our participation, for it must not be kept within us, a secret, but rather lived out and made known... So we must put our heart into the city, but keep it ours by humor. But then the question arises, will the men building Babel accept working with us if we refuse to bury our hearts there?' - Jacques Ellul, The Meaning of the City, Wipf and Stock, pp. 180-181.

Texts to Ponder on (Non?)Assurance

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Cor 4)

Monday, 25 May 2020

Towards a Class-Conscious Doctrine of Election: Some NT Texts

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
(Luke 6)

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1)

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? (James 2)

See also: 1, 2.

Friday, 22 May 2020


'And this situation of ours is also radically different from that of the other inhabitants of the city, its builders. Theirs is a closed world, a world for which nothing else is expected... inside its walls are men who think they have found a secure home, the only one, their Eden... And it is into this world that we are asked to reintroduce an attitude of waiting - not an empty hope for better days, not a desire for more power and security, but a hope for certain very precise events, known by us for a long time, but out of our jurisdiction because they do not depend on us. Anxiety and hope mixed together... Our waiting attitude, if it is constant and true, is the very ruin of the spiritual power of the city.' - Jacques Ellul, The Meaning of the City, Wipf and Stock, pp.77-78.

The Good Samaritan

I've never been quite happy with any particular interpretation of this famous parable. Below is a fresh attempt at exposition, relocated from the preamble to this post about the early tradition's views on such matters.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Councils and Tradition

Some Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and similar believers, will attempt to get around the divergence of various of their teachings and practices from Ante-Nicene church tradition by appealing to the judgements of the Ecumenical Councils as of prime authority. This can then be used to posit a non-extant Ante-Nicene apostolic tradition in keeping with their current doctrines that the extant Ante-Nicene tradition supposedly deviated from, or to identify some prototypical element that a practise supposedly developed from. This can be the case with regards to the use of icons, priestly vestments, and involvement in the military.

For me, the trouble with this epistemic outlook is that the church fathers around the time of the first Ecumenical Council and after were clear that any decisions the church took had to be in line with what had already been handed down (see J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pp.41-51). To my knowledge those who argued for things like the veneration of icons and participation in the military quoted no alternative tradition from the Ante-Nicene era to that which we have extant. We are therefore under no obligation to hold such councils as authoritative on those matters, as God has preserved nothing to confirm those opinions by their theologians' own epistemic standards. This is even apart from the difficult question of what constitutes a council as authoritative, given that heretics had councils that were received by much of the church for a time, and so on.

I may be accused of a monomaniacal focus on the Ante-Nicene era, and I would want to clarify that there are certain things that remained unresolved beyond that time. The NT canon, for example, was only more tightly defined beyond Nicaea, and I would have to trust that God was merciful to the church in leading it into greater agreement as to its prime source of authority even as it went increasingly awry in some major areas of praxis. But this doesn't mean the gates of Hell prevailed against the church, just that it went progressively off-base until those more faithful to the early tradition like the Waldensians were ejected and so forced to start afresh.